My First Live Sighting of a Great Horned Owl!

Around 10 o’clock headed out to the American River Bend Park again for a walk.  My cold-pneumonia thing is still clinging on, but I actually feel like I have a bit more energy today, so hopefully I’ll be in recovery-mode from here on out.

I went to the park hoping to see some good fungi or slime molds after the rain we had, but there wasn’t much of that to see… Although, I did find a huge specimen of polypore fungus on a stump.  We also saw woodpeckers and other birds, deer, and rabbits.  And I found a few first instar Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars… just hatchlings… and a female Snakefly (which are cool-looking flies with long extended heads and heavy mouth parts).  I could tell it was a girl by the long ovipositors on the backend.  They lay their eggs in the bark of trees, and the babies eat grubs and other eggs.

But the best sighting of the day was early on:  I could hear a group of Acorn Woodpeckers in a tree just having a fit, jumping up and down, flashing their wings, jabbering… so I went over to see what the fuss was about and if I could get some photos.  I couldn’t get any good photos of the woodpeckers because they kept moving around and the camera didn’t know what to focus on.  I then looked around to see what was setting them off, and spotted it in a nearby tree.  At first I couldn’t really tell what it was.  It was tan and brown and looked like a shaggy heap.  I caught a glimpse of feathers, but they seemed disjointed, and then got a glimpse of “tassels” on the top of the head.  It was so big I thought it might be a bobcat with a bird or something.  But then it straightened itself out, shook out its wings and swiveled its head around and I realized it was huge Great Horned Owl. It just sat up there, blinking slowly, looking like it was dozing off.  I think I ended up standing there for about 20 minutes just watching it.  Half of all the photos I took today were of the owl… It was sooo gorgeous… It was lighter in coloring than I’d expected a Great Horned Owl to be so when I got home, I looked it up in one of my bid books and discovered that its coloring is called “Arctic” and is a “light-morph” variation of the standard coloring.  Neat!